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Photo of Launched Iranian Missiles Appears to Have Been Digitally Altered

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July 9: This image from Sepah News shows three missiles after launching. (AP)

A photo showing Iranian military officials launching four missiles appears to have been digitally altered to show an extra missile, according to New York Times blog The Lede.

"There's no doubt the photo was doctored," said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the Non-Proliferation Program for the London-based International Institute For Strategic Studies.

Fitzpatrick, a former State Department official who followed arms control issues, believes the photo was manipulated after the missile malfunctioned.

The photo was released by Agence France-Presse amid news of Iran's controversial missile tests.

Click here to view photos.

According to The Times, AFP reportedly obtained the photo from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's media Web site, Sepah News, on Wednesday. The photo ran on the covers of major media outlets around the world before anyone noticed the apparent error.

"They had a rocket launch and one failed," Fitzpatrick said. "They have had other tests that have succeeded, but Iran tends to exaggerate its capabilities."

There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials on the photos.

"The whole purpose of these launches was to demonstrate Iran's capabilities and a photo showing one out of four rockets failing doesn't have the intended impact," Fitzpatrick said

On Thursday The Associated Press released a photo from Sepah News' site that appeared almost identical, but with only three missiles shown, The Times reported. AFP retracted the four-missile version of the photo on Thursday, claiming it had been altered by Iranian State Media.

In a statement, AFP said that the missile "has apparently been added in digital retouch to cover a grounded missile that may have failed during the test."

It was unclear on Thursday whether or not the Iranian government had any involvement in the incident.

Iran recently made headlines by test-firing long-range missiles in the Persian Gulf.

According to an Iranian state television station, the tests are meant to show that the country can defend itself against an attack by the United States or Israel. The tests have raised global concerns, as the missiles are within striking distance of Israel, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Click here to read more on this story from The New York Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.